March 1, 2010 at 8:22 pm (Costume) (, )

Pick a name out of the hat. The battered bowler that belonged to his grandfather or the tiny grey veiled hat she pins into her ringlets. The names are the same, old friends, forgotten visions, mannerisms. Nice, cut and dry alter egos, each a part of another, sliced up neatly into the little letters of a single name. Pick a name.
Tonight is White Rook and Chequered Herald. Last night we had Fuchsia and Clock Tower. Perhaps tomorrow shall be Wake, Glass Girl, Little Frank, or Mister Tricky.
Now that he is Herald, the boy removes his signature crimson lipstick, the girl her glasses. They step onto the mattress. The room is low, the floor around about 7ft square. Aside from the shelves of books, electric-wired devices, typewriters and clocks, the floor is taken up entirely by a thin double mattress. Above the mess of blankets, pillows and velvet there is thrown a rough, wicker-like rug of a bright weave, hardy enough to support soft soled shoes. The mirror standing slouched in the corner between the wall and the bookcase is worshipped.
White Rook plasters her face first with paint, then anthrax white powder, becoming first pale, then ghost, then blank paper. The lips, brows and lids are also painted, stopping sharply at the neck and ears. Her curls too are sprayed and clotted a chalky white. A translucent petticoat covers her pale body, light lace stockings her legs. Her feet nest laced in supple cream shoes, ready to sprint, climb, fly up walls.
Splayed upon the mattress she waits, turning and stretching at leisure, watching Chequered Herald eye his reflection intensely. Indigo paint streaked across his eyes becomes a mask, cheque blazer and red shirt open to display bruised torso, stained inky blue, feet bare. He puts a pewter ring around each finger and draws a square upon the back of his left hand. Rook rolls onto her back, pulling on a pair of white kid gloves, frayed and stained beige with age. An elderly pair of ladies gloves that have grabbed, pulled and shaken, never patiently grasping another hand, never gentle.
If character is built through repetition, then perhaps every break from a pattern is birth. A blackened tongue becomes a new woman. Herald places three dice in his breast pocket, the larger two white, the smaller blue. Every time he rolls the dice the flesh below his shirt clings firmer to the squares of his blazer and painted face than to his bones. He grips the bowler between his thumb and forefinger with a fever. He is not dust yet, not yet, not. Tonight must move, like every night, with a manner of a finale. (He presses it onto his skull like a lid)
He peers out of the single small square window, a shadow of a man’s face in a square of light. Those people who once had his body well up inside it. He remember funny things, like the blackened face behind the wall, or a cold metal chain around the waist on a winter British beach. Just bones and clothes above the chilled water. Rook has already flown from the door which swings behind her, he follows. The engine of this city is ripping through its own concrete to form a river and White Rook can smell it. She paces the streets and alleys in a frenzy, senses a warmth from sandstone walls and runs alongside them, her fingertips wearing raw against their grit as she feels for the stone’s pulse. Sometimes the heat will fade, or die suddenly. Rook will jolt backwards and expel a primeval shout, grunt, caw. Chequered Herald whispers,
“Fictions should never be butchered, executed, condemned to a stagnate iron lung.” gasping for breath between his words, Rook laughs. Perhaps their blood is becoming thin as they grimace, the laugh that suffocates and strangles, blood light and waterlike. The moon is thick behind the clouds, diseased. It shines a dappled pox onto their painted faces. The lunar joy has made them ill.
At last, White Rook collapses upon the flaking tar of a fractured underpass. The walls and ceiling are drawn upon, not with the curiosity and naivety of a cave painting, or with the passion of artists, but with the violent territorial signature of a lion’s piss. Each name stands bolder, fatter, brighter than the one beneath or beside it. Each voice shouts louder and louder into the empty ears of Chequered Herald. He takes a marker from his pocket and marks a square over the bickering names. No victims, only pity. Some are sliced at the lines, others float helplessly within the square like dead fish. These words belong to Herald now.
The concrete is rough and mean against Rook’s thin petticoat. She slumps against the wall of the underpass, her pale eyes fixed upon the square prison. (Gloria was a dog, Rook remembers. Her heart flutters violet)
Herald banishes the branch of oak he adopted as a baton; it is smashed against the surviving names in turn, killing each with a blunt blow to the capital. A single name is held hostage: Long Jon. The man behind Heralds eyes already has a gait for him, a colour, perhaps, for the shoes or lips.
(Akira, a fallen name, in his dying moments shudders with a flash of visual intensity: Severed hands, clean and bloodless, flocks of them, hovering over the paddy fields in late spring, green wetlands, low hands, he cannot bring himself to move his own arms, the hands are flat, their fingers pressed together lightly, straightened palm, drift slowly with the wind barely two feet above the tips of the rice, Akira knows that the hands may one day crush his crops)
Crumpled, Rook straightens herself. She struggles against her own thin ankles as she leaves the concrete cave. The city streams sound sharp in her nostrils again. Delirium is not an escape, it is stripped vision. If it were a lie, how could White Rook fly flawlessly through the city by night? Arms spread like wings, she flies into the dark rocks once more, her fingertips bare, the craving of her tongue enough to navigate the river.
(The man behind his eyes wonders briefly what he would do without the girl beneath Rook.)
Anyone found on the narrow roads of the city at this time of night will have much the same mind as you. Women cry into the shoulders of strangers, men take glasses from deep suede pockets and share wine with people they have never seen before
Rook and Chequered Herald pass unquestioned, though not unnoticed. The streets seem thin, their travellers bleak and miserable, or manically unreal. A scream of a cockerel erupts from heralds lips whenever any night soul has the misfortune to pass him, the girl grabs at their faces and groans softly, her thumbs pressed gently to their eyelids. Occasionally some struggle and bruise, others fall limply into her arms and shudder at Heralds dawn cry. The first suggestions of sunlight strain the horizon, barely lit clouds tarnish a bronzing sky.
They skip across the zebra crossing, Rook tiptoeing upon the white lines, Herald the black. He gasps as he leaps from each tarmac stepping stone, his lungs raw and throat sore from fierce bird-cries. As White Rook pirouettes onto the kerb, footsteps sound sharp and urgent from a muddy alleyway. Rook stands frozen, transfixed. A woman bathed in the dirty amber light of the dim alley is emerging, the muted heels of her little boots clicking softly against the stone-grime. Silently, Herald steps behind Rook and places a cool hand upon her waist, his square shoulders raised in aggression in the manner of an ape, blocking the wide road behind him. The woman opens her pale mouth in horror. A sour tongue between the dry lips of a night-walker. Skin turns to an ash in the cold light of the grey street; the tongue is loose in its box and may fall into her lap if she dares gasp. Beneath the hideous sky her pink-pearl eyes shine against albino skin and colourless hair.
Still tighter, Herald grips her waist. The Rook is shaking now, trembling and muttering, swaying under Herald’s firm clutch. Hands buried in her platinum hair, the woman steps back from the pair, their gaudy painted faces snarling, leering like angry Loa gods. With a guttural shout, White Rook shakes herself from the Herald’s geometric arm. Cawing and jabbering she climbs up the near flat stone wall of the alley with bestial speed and precision. Before the woman can gasp (and let her dry tongue fall softly to the ground), Rook jumps upon her, clawing desperately at the imposter-woman’s supple flesh in a hunger for bones.
Herald screams shrilly with the crescendo of the dawn chorus, his bare feet gripping the stone with a fever of anticipated exhilaration. Each hair bristles as he darts towards the pale stranger, teeth bared. He brings the oak club down upon the woman’s frail crown, knocking her to the ground. Each strike of solid wood moulds her skull to the right-angle of wall and stone floor, Rook caws with glee at each wet thud. Within a minute there is little left, save for a beige suede trench coat and wet, unrecognisable sinew.
The boy and girl stand back, side by side, red fingertips touching. With the haze of violence thinning, they realise that neither of them knew her name. Rook kneels at the woman’s side and dips a gloved hand into the crimson well of her head. She glazes her lips, cheeks and the tip of her nose with the red stain. From the side of the crushed body, Silly Jane rises, grinning. She prods Heralds nose and giggles, wiggling her spread fingers in their now red gloves. He smiles shyly at Silly Jane. They link arms and walk into the pink dawn of the open, Chequered Herald breathing heavily, bare blue-inked chest heaving. Cackling, Silly Jane leads the way, never once looking back at White Rook, crumpled and useless in the shade of the alley. The boy and girl stagger upon their weary legs, eager for rest. Eager to awaken at the first dulling of dusk to pick a name. To pick a name out of the hat.


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